Programming note: Warriors-Nuggets coverage tips off tonight at 5:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply).
Having lost to a toothless bunch of Spurs and needing a third-quarter rally to put away the worst Lakers club seen in recent years, the Warriors go into Monday night's game at Denver understanding it's not whom they play, but how they play.
They have gotten all too familiar with the worst of themselves, the lazy defense and the sloppiness with the ball. Any rise in the standings will require sweat and care.
"Our mindset is defense, and that has to be consistent no matter (who we're playing),'' coach Mark Jackson said
"At this point, it's more about what we're doing out there than who we're playing against,'' forward David Lee said. "We know that if we do the things we're capable of, we can beat anybody. And the opposite of that is if we're not out there playing with that kind of intensity and our defense isn't on the right level, then we're definitely capable of losing to anybody.''
That includes the Nuggets team they bounced from the playoffs in the first round last spring. That series victory in six games introduced the Warriors to the rest of the nation and raised their profile entering this season. Their names–-Curry, Lee etc.--are on the NBA marquee.
That's why the Warriors (15-13) can't sneak up on anybody. And also why teams delight in knocking them off.
Not that Denver (14-12) needs any additional motivation. The Nuggets were stunned by the playoff loss, which led to the departure of general manager Masai Ujiri and the dismissal of coach George Karl. New coach Brian Shaw, a product of Bishop O'Dowd High School, has the Nuggets playing solid basketball.
After losing their first three games and six of their first 10, Denver has turned it around with strong rebounding and quick offense. To maintain the pace, Shaw makes liberal use of his bench; 11 players average at least 16 minutes per game.
The Nuggets' attack could be slowed a bit on Monday, as high-energy power forward Kenneth Faried is listed as doubtful with tender ankle.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Stephen Curry vs. Ty Lawson. Both point guards are the engines of their respective teams, Curry with his shooting and distributing, Lawson with his quickness and ability to push the pace. Both are playing well.
Andre Iguodala vs. Wilson Chandler. Both wings are solid at each end. But Iguodala is the superior overall player. He should be able to keep Chandler in check.
Toney Douglas vs. Nate Robinson. While Douglas is a defensive specialist, Robinson brings almost nothing other than offensive energy. Toney's job is simple: Don’t let Nate get on one of his patented hot streaks.
Warriors centers Jermaine O'Neal (right wrist surgery), Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and Ognjen Kuzmic (right pinkie surgery) are out indefinitely.
Faried (ankle) is listed as doubtful for the Nuggets.
First meeting of the season. Though the Warriors defeated the Nuggets in six games in a first-round playoff series last spring, the Dubs lost the regular-season series three games to one. It will be Iguodala's first return trip to the Pepsi Center since leaving the Nuggets (via trade) as a free agent to sign with the Warriors in July.
The Warriors after the game return to Oakland, where on Christmas Night (7:30) they play host to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are on a season-high five-game win streak.